The Mesturet Novel : The Life of Passions

Article publié par Le Mesturet le 27/10/2011 à 17:16
Catégories : The Mesturet Novel
Tags : The Mesuret Novel

Chapter Two/The Construction/part 3

On that day, the snow was falling heavily on the town. Pierre went down the stairs two at a time, quickly finding himself in the courtyard. It was the last week of school before the holidays. He rushed as fast as he could to the bus stop. Elodie was already waiting for him there. They had gotten into the habit of meeting every other week. Their conversations were always animated, but in spite of their closeness there was never the one move or sign that would have triggered the beginning of a romance.
 In the freezing cold, Pierre and Elodie talked about the coming holidays. Things revolved around the Quiet Volcano for each of them, but in different ways. Elodie didn’t see her father much as he was at the restaurant night and day in that period. Pierre, like all the team would be working right beside Charles and Jean. On top of that, Pierre’s parents were arriving on the twenty-second of December and Charles could only give his apprentice two days off. Since the beginning of the month, the restaurant had been fully booked with business lunches, end of the year meals, family dinners. The weeks were full and left little time for anything else. Pierre was getting to the heart of the job where the passion for it carried you through the exhaustion and sacrifices. He understood what it meant to be completely committed to it, now he had a hard time even thinking of it as work. His curiosity and enthusiasm were more important than the restrictions it put on him. One evening in his room, he thought with surprise: “Am I really working?” He told Elodie all of this while they waited for their bus… waited a very long time.
An employee of the transportation company approached them and the few others at the stop.
“Sorry, but there won’t be any service today. We can’t run, there’s too much snow and the roads haven’t been cleared.”
Elodie and Pierre found themselves alone at the bus stop.
“Well, I’m going back to the restaurant. They’ll be happy, they could use an extra pair of hands,” said Pierre.
“I’ll walk with you a bit. I’ll go back to my place to start cramming for philosophy,” said Elodie.
They walked together for a few minutes and when they were about to part ways Elodie asked: “Do you want to come and have a hot chocolate at the house?”
“What about Marie?”
“She isn’t there, she works today. Her friend with a shop needs a hand during the holidays. They went to school together. Those two are inseparable!”
“OK, but just for two minutes because your father would be happy—“
“Forget my father for a little.”
Quarreling playfully about the excessive zeal Pierre had for Charles and Jean, they arrived at Elodie’s. Pierre sat in the kitchen while Elodie warmed the milk. She watched Pierre. He was looking elsewhere, avoiding her gaze. He was at Jean’s place. It was an uncomfortable situation.
Yet his heart was beating hard.
The young woman came up to him and poured the hot chocolate into his cup. She stopped, touched his cheek. He didn’t move. Then, she kissed him. He didn’t know what was going on, so he let things take their natural course. 
Marie was hurrying home. It was already three in the afternoon and she wanted to be there when Jean was usually home for at least a couple hours break. She was a few meters away when she bumped into Pierre who she recognised right away despite his hat: a few locks of blonde hair stuck out here and there and there were his blue eyes, she’d noticed his big blue eyes during a visit to the restaurant.
“Hello Pierre.”
“Uh, hello.”
Pierre was all red, but not the kind of red that comes from the cold. No, he was blushing, like a child caught with his hand in a bag of candies.
“Good luck.”
“Thank you.”
Mairie understood. She went in and was met by Elodie.
“You didn’t have classes today.”
“No, there weren’t any buses.”
“I think I passed Pierre as I came in, was he here?”
Elodie worriedly looked at her mother. Marie gazed at her daughter with infinite tenderness. The two women looked at each other. Words weren’t necessary.
“He had a hot chocolate. It was cold.”
“Well, that’s nice,” said Marie turning around.
She was thinking of Elodie, of course, and Pierre as well, but obviously of Charles. The first man she had loved until the day she realized that she would always be in second place, after the restaurant. Pierre also had a passion for it, let’s hope that Elodie wouldn’t also end up in second place. It was just beginning, they would see later… 
Pierre went into the restaurant. He was having trouble collecting his thoughts. Everything had happened so fast… and so wonderfully. He was only thinking of one thing… seeing Elodie again and if possible in similar circumstances. He put on his kitchen jacket, his apron. The kitchen was quiet. It was the break. Light-hearted, Pierre decided to work. He was washing lettuce when Charles called out:
“What are you doing there?”
“No classes today. No bus – too much snow.”
“Well, that’s convenient. You can help me prepare the capons.”
“They’re young castrated roosters.”
“That’s a bit harsh for them. Do they suffer?”
“If you know how to talk to roosters, go ask them!” Charles burst out laughing. Pierre’s question was stupid.
The end of the afternoon was wonderful for Pierre. He was working with his mentor, he was finally in love and on top of that he had “taken the plunge”. Incredible, even this morning… He was very happy.
Around six, Jean came into the kitchen whistling. Pierre blushed again.
“Hi Pierre.”
“Hello Chef.”
He called Charles and Jean “chef”. Charles didn’t have any objections and he was pleased that Pierre showed the same respect for Jean as for himself.
Jean gave Charles a nudge with his elbow as he passed and headed towards the office. Charles fell in behind him. Charles loved that. Jean had something to tell him. A rumour, a bit of gossip. It might be sad or tantalizing; either way it would be surprising and break up the routine.
The two friends came back, each returning to their posts, a smile on their lips and in their eyes.
“Damn,” Jean thought. “He’s going to take her from me, he’s not just fooling around. Well, I’ll talk to him… No, I’ll wait until one of them talks to me. And will it last?”
Charles was thinking more practically: “Another hook. He can’t leave now. If only it lasts.”
On the twenty-second of December, Pierre’s parents, four sisters and grandmother arrived by train from Clermont. Charles decided to put them up at the hotel. While the restaurant was full every day, the hotel was in the low season and he could offer them four rooms during Christmas without any inconvenience. Starting on the thirtieth, things would get more complicated as the demand for rooms went up for New Years Eve.
It was a warm reunion. Pierre’s mother hugged him for a long time. Here little one was finally in her arms. His grandmother and sisters surrounded him. To the surprise of the receptionist a sort of melee had formed in the lobby of the hotel.
Only Charles and Pierre’s father stood apart.
“Hi Pierre.”
“Hi Dad, how’s it going?”
The restrained reunion of the two men contrasted with the extremely affectionate one that had just taken place.
Pierre was the pet of the tribe of women that showered him with questions.
The reunions over, Pierre took them round the hotel again, a little in the way of an owner, which no one missed, especially not Charles who was quite proud of the work accomplished in just a few months.
Of course, the next day, the sisters’ questions were more about Pierre’s personal life. What they wanted to know most of all was whether he had a girlfriend and wasn’t he bored in such a little village in the country. He had a hard time resisting the repeated assaults of the four girls. Pierre had to admit that he might like one young woman. “Might like” if Elodie heard about that…
Pierre’s parents were much more focused on work, on his life in the restaurant and at school.
They spoke a lot with Charles who told them about everything except his illness and his plans for Pierre. He thought that the young man was gifted and could make a career for himself in the profession. Of course, his mother was worried about his health because she thought he was tired.
“You know, right now, he works a lot: fourteen or fifteen hours in a row. It’s difficult, but it’s exciting for him. And then, he has his own life as well,” explained Charles.
“What do you mean?” asked his parents in unison.
“He’s a young man, after all. You see what I mean.”
Not really, thought his mother. After a few hours, she understood what Charles meant. She had lost her little one a second time.
Before they left, Charles sensed her worry.
“You know, I’m watching over him. Nothing gets by me.”
“I know.”
She hugged him on the station platform, then turned to Pierre.
“So, you’re OK?”
“Yes, mum. Everything’s going well. I’m really happy.”
The question burned on his father’s lips, but his mother understood and didn’t give him time.
“Try to call us more often… Charles told me that you can use the phone at reception.”
“Yes, mum. I’ll try.”
He hugged his mother. He knew that he’d see them at Easter.
“I love you, Pierre.”
“I love you, too.”
His father, of course, stayed apart and the other travellers were privileged with the strange spectacle of the melee. The sisters were enthusiastic and the grandmother as well. Charles and Pierre stayed on the platform and watched the train leave. Pierre’s mother also saw Charles’ hand on her son’s shoulder. She watched with emotion. The adventure had definitely begun. Her son was in good hands. The father thought the same thing, but with a little stab of jealousy. He would have liked to have been in Charles’ place. To be the mentor placing his hand on his student’s shoulder to guide him. He understood that it was difficult, impossible to be both mentor and father. Each had his role, each had his influence.
The holidays passed very quickly. The work was steady. There was always game, but also turkeys, capons, foie gras, oysters and Christmas logs. Pierre didn’t know where to turn anymore. There was so much to see that he would have like to have worked at all the positions at the same time. The turkeys, tricks so that they didn’t dry out while they cooked; the logs, so complicated to make; the foie gras, so fragile. Nothing was simple and everything connected up so effortlessly.
But he didn’t understand why, in the middle of Auvergne, his cousin was determined to serve oysters.
“Kid, cuisine is like a ritual. People eat the same things at the same times. You have to listen to your clients, to their wishes and, sometimes, to their demands. Oysters and celebrations, it’s like, like oil and sardines, steak and French fries. Do you see? It’s natural: oysters and Christmas holidays.”
Opening oysters was really hard. Finding the hinge, not letting the knife slip onto your hand. In short, difficult, but interesting. Pierre learned to open oysters with dexterity and above all, passion. He remembered meals with his family and when his father came back from the shopping with three dozen oysters and each time his question: “Well, so who is going to open the oysters?” was left unanswered. Now, for Pierre, opening oysters was like having a conversation during dinner. It makes an impression… knowing how to open oysters!
Foie gras was also one of his jobs. Charles taught his how to devein the foie gras, marinate it in a Sauterne or Muscat. “Never from Porto, that’s another recipe.” “Not too many spices – salt and pepper, that’s it.”
What he remembered was what Charles said in the kitchen: “Foie gras is not a sponge, you don’t put in anything and everything! It’s a demanding musical score. Your turn to play it, sirs!”
The End of Chapter Two/The Construction/part 3
The next week: Chapter Two/The Construction/part 4
Translated from the French by Bodega Design
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